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The Legal Series consists of correspondence, printed litigation records, case files, agreements, and other legal documents. The documents for the period 1899-1910 appear in the following order: (1) Harry F. Miller File; (2) Richard W. Kellow File; (3) Legal Department Records. The Miller and Kellow files consist primarily of agreements and other legal documents, such as assignments, licenses, powers of attorney, deeds, and bonds, along with a small amount of related correspondence. The Legal Department Records consist of correspondence, patent interference files, litigation case files, agreements, and other documents relating to the activities of the Legal Department, a centralized office for the consideration of legal matters involving Edison and his companies.
Harry F. Miller File. Harry F. Miller began his association with the Edison laboratory in 1888 in the office of John F. Randolph; he succeeded Randolph as Edison's private secretary in 1908. Miller also served as an official in several Edison companies, including the National Phonograph Co. and Thomas A. Edison, Inc. Although most of the documents in the Miller File date from the nineteenth century, there is also some material from the twentieth century. The documents for 1899-1910 relate primarily to phonographs, ore milling, and batteries, as well as to Edison's personal and corporate finances. Included are agreements and other items pertaining to the Edison Manufacturing Co., Edison Phonograph Works, Edison Portland Cement Co., National Phonograph Co., and other Edison companies. Also included are agreements and other documents concerning the commercial use of Edison's name by Thomas A. Edison, Jr., and others.
Richard W. Kellow File. Richard W. Kellow, who succeeded Miller as Edison's personal business secretary, was head of Thomas A. Edison, Personal, a unit of the Secretarial Service Dept. of Thomas A. Edison, Inc, from 1916 until 1921. The majority of items in the Kellow File date from the first three decades of the twentieth century. The documents for 1899-1910 include material pertaining to the corporate identity and the finances of the Edison Portland Cement Co. and Edison-Saunders Compressed Air Co.; items relating to real estate, insurance, and royalty agreements; and documents dealing with the sale and promotion of storage batteries and electric vehicles.
Legal Department Records. Established in 1904, the Legal Department centralized the business of Edison, his laboratory, and his companies for the consideration of legal matters. It dealt primarily with patent concerns, including applications, interferences, and infringement litigation, but it also handled a variety of other legal matters, such as real estate transactions, copyright and trademark cases, and the execution of agreements, assignments, and licenses. Edison's personal attorney, Frank L. Dyer, served as general counsel of the Legal Department. He continued to manage its affairs even after he became Edison's chief executive officer in 1908, replacing William E. Gilmore as president of the National Phonograph Co. and several other Edison companies. The records of the Legal Department consist primarily of files that Dyer, his staff, or his predecessors collected and maintained on individual subjects or cases. The documents for 1899-1910 are arranged by subject into five groups: (1) Battery; (2) Cement; (3) Motion Pictures; (4) Phonograph; and (5) Edison's Name.
The selected material in the Legal Series includes agreements and other legal instruments pertaining to the activity of Edison and his companies; patent interference files providing descriptions or exhibits of experimental work done by Edison and his associates; litigation case files that demonstrate Edison's involvement in the progress of litigation or that broadly concern his experimental work and the business and legal strategies of his companies; and related correspondence. Whenever there are multiple copies or variant versions of the same document, the signed original (if available) has been selected. If a signed original cannot be found, the copy that most closely approximates the final document, such as a copy entered into evidence during litigation, has been selected. Drafts of agreements and other legal documents have also been selected if they are in Edison's hand or if there are significant variations between a draft and the final document.
Among the items not selected are patent assignments, letters of transmittal and acknowledgment, announcements of shareholders' meetings, proxies, powers of attorney, routine memoranda between attorneys, and perfunctory communications with the courts. Also unselected are the numerous suits in which Edison or one of his companies was at least nominally involved, but for which there is no evidence of Edison's direct participation. Because of the vast quantity of material in the Legal Department records, detailed descriptions of the unselected case files and other unselected records have not been presented. A comprehensive finding aid is available at the Edison National Historical Park
Documents of a legal or quasi-legal nature also appear in other series. The Document File Series includes numerous agreements between Edison and other parties, along with memoranda by Edison regarding proposed contracts; correspondence between Edison and his attorneys; and material relating to the formation and activities of the Legal Department. Corporate documentation and other material of a legal nature, including correspondence and other items pertaining to the progress of litigation, can also be found in the Company Records Series.